« July 2012 « Loma Linda
Religion study completes second wave of data collection
Loma Linda University researchers with the Adventist Religion and Health Study, a sub-study of the Adventist Health-Study-2, have been making significant strides in their quest to find what specific aspects of religion relate to better or worse health.
With the completion of the second wave of data collection in January, members of the research team can now begin the process of integrating both sets of data, which will enable them to produce stronger scientific results.
“This will allow us to answer several important questions,” explains Jerry Lee, Ph.D., principal investigator, “such as ’Do people who are experiencing high stress in 2006 have more illness in 2011 but less so if they were more religious?’”
The sub-study began in 2006 when 10,988 Adventists from the Adventist Health Study-2 cohort filled out a questionnaire about religious beliefs and practices, stressful life experiences, lifestyle (e.g., exercise and diet), psychological characteristics and social life. A smaller group who live in Southern California gave blood and urine samples at a clinic and underwent physical performance testing (e.g., grip strength) and memory testing. Researchers were also able to measure their blood pressure, body weight, body fat, plus waist and hip circumference.
In 2010-2011, 6,512 participants responded to a second questionnaire to see how responses had changed; in 2011-2012 many of the original clinic members returned to the second clinic. During this period, 327 of the religion and health study participants attended study-specific clinics held at LLU East Campus and Los Angeles Adventist Academy.
Partaking in a health research project requires commitment. Participants have to do many things, including fasting the night before, coming to the clinic, performing the memory test, and giving samples of urine, saliva and blood. Yet, to the relief of the clinical team, the study members were found to be willing and generous with their time.
“All of us — seven staff, including four graduate students — were amazed by their commitment, incredible kindness, and compassion,” says co-investigator Kelly Morton, Ph.D., speaking of study participants. “I don’t think you could ever find a group of people who are more willing and eager to participate in this type of research. It was a hassle and a lot of work, but they were very committed.
Lee, echoing the same grateful sentiment, says, “The participants may not realize it, but they have made enormous contributions already. We just want them to know how much we appreciate their help in completing the questionnaires and coming to the clinics.”
A longitudinal or prospective study such as this one typically means long-term outcomes. That is because researchers need to follow certain aspects of the health experience of study members over several years. Nonetheless, the Adventist Religion and Health Study has been beneficial since its inception, and a number of scientific papers have already been published.
Adventist Health Study-2 — the parent study — is one of the largest health studies ever designed. It is a cohort study of 96,000 Seventh-day Adventists in the United States and Canada who enrolled between 2002 and 2007.
Two previous studies on Adventist health involving 24,000 and 34,000 California Adventists have been directed from Loma Linda University during the past 40 years. These have been among the first to raise scientific awareness of the close relationship between diet and health. This groundbreaking work has brought visibility to the lifestyle recommended by Seventh-day Adventists from both the scientific and lay communities.